This post is long overdue… like several years overdue. Partly due to laziness, and partly due to a selfish desire to keep it to myself, the only mention I have made on this blog of my favorite Goa restaurant was brief – and didn’t focus on the food. Having just returned from our annual Goa vacation, where we had yet another fabulous meal at Fernando’s Nostalgia, I’ve decided that it’s time to bite the bullet.
Fernando’s Nostalgia is tucked away in an off-the-tourist-map village called
Loutolim Raia near Loutolim in South Goa. Recently deceased cartoonist Mario Miranda made his home in this tranquil village Loutolim, and his magnificent house (along with the 250-year old Casa Araujo Alvares) stand as reminders of a bygone era in Goa’s history.
Fernando’s Nostalgia is one man’s labor of love, designed to recapture and preserve the culinary and arts culture of that era.
The late Chef Fernando da Costa, better know as “Ferdy”, gave up a flourishing career in hospitality and returned to his ancestral home in Loutolim in an effort to help preserve traditional Goan culture. Thus, his restaurant, Fernando’s Nostalgia, dedicates itself to preserving and promoting Goan food, music, and art. To that end, Ferdy’s wife, the gracious Margarida De Noronha Távora e Costa, continues to keep her husband’s dream alive. (Yes, that’s her full name, and she bears it with pride.)
Truly Goan. Really.
The restaurant is located just a few hundred feet off NH175A, the Ponda-Margao highway. A lovingly maintained traditional bullock cart sits just inside the gate. The dining area is an immense covered patio that displays a painstakingly-curated personal collection of traditional Goan artefacts. As you make your way towards it, you catch glimpses of Ferdy’s ancestral house at the rear.
And that, folks, is where the food comes from. An honest-to-goodness home kitchen staffed by seasoned cooks – not chefs – who have been preparing these dishes the same way for decades.
Although the restaurant now offers conventional printed menu cards, I prefer the old menus that have been hand-painted on the lid of an old-style cooking vessel – a patheela ka dhakkan.
Linger over the menu, because if you are holidaying on any of Goa’s beaches, you aren’t going to see more than one or two of these dishes. And even those, unfortunately, are often watered-down corruptions of The Real Thing. Note also, that this is one of the very few places that you will find a decent range of vegetarian offerings that do not feature either paneer or potato. A word about the service: it’s slow. Real s.l.o.o.o.w. Like everything else in Goa. There’s absolutely no use getting worked up about it – that’s just the way it is!
Not The Usual Suspects
It would be impossible to cover all of Nostalgia’s exhaustive menu in a blog post, so I have chosen to focus on some traditional specialties that are now unavailable almost anywhere else in Goa.
First up, appetizers. Fernando’s range of appetizers forces you to think beyond batter-fried prawns or calamari (though you can order those if you like).
Prawn Kismuri is a semi-dry snack comprised of tiny dried shrimp roasted with fried onions, grated coconut, green chillies, and whole spices.
I love kismuri, and especially prawn kismuri… but be warned: starting your meal with this is the equivalent of ordering roasted peanuts with your beer – you just. can’t. stop. eating. it.
My other pick of starter would be Roasted Ox Tongue. Nostalgia’s roast tongue is nice and garlicky, with a light kick of pepper.
Now, now, don’t be squeamish – it resembles a somewhat fatty ham, has a soft, velvety texture, and tastes divine.
This Little Piggy…
The Goans love their pork. I love their pork too.
If pork vindhalo is the only Goan pork dish you know, try expanding your gustatory repertoire to include Pork Aadmaas. “Aad” refers to bones (from Konkani “haad“); “maas“, of course, is meat. In Goan Catholic cuisine, aadmaas invariably refers to pork bones, and often implies the use of pork ribs (some home cooks use lamb shanks instead.)
In Goa, aadmaas is prepared as a dangerously fiery red curry to which the bones have imparted their gelatinous goodness over a period of several hours of low-heat cooking. As with sorpotel, Goa’s more famous pork offal curry, the flavors improve the longer it “sits”. Nostalgia’s aadmaas features meat so tender it makes you want to cry – which, thanks to the faithfully authentic spice level of the curry, you will undoubtedly end up doing anyway.
To offset their pungency, aadmaas and sorpotel are best eaten with traditional Goan sannas – again, you won’t find these delicious little discs being served on any of Goa’s popular beaches. Goan sannas are meant to be slightly sweet, spongy, and thin (unlike their somewhat more portly cousin, the Mangalore sanna.)
A well-made Goan sanna – in other words, a Fernando’s sanna – contains nothing but ground rice, palm toddy, and coconut milk, and maybe a pinch of sugar and a drop or two of palm vinegar. Those of you who have only tasted the Mangalore sanna will notice at once that these do not have the same slightly sour undertones.
Pork Cabidela, another gem on the Nostalgia menu, is a traditional Portuguese blood curry. Before supermarkets sanitized the notion of what “cutting meat” actually entails, butchered animals were hung upside down to drain the carcass of blood. Cabidela calls for the blood of a butchered pig to be collected and vinegar added to prevent it from clotting. The pork meat is then seasoned with spices, garlic, and ginger, and braised in its own blood. The blood gives the finished dish a dark, rich color and flavor. I know, it all sounds so gruesome – but believe me, you will want to lick the bowl clean!
Vegetarians may want to try parboiled rice with Soimirem Codi, an unusual, tangy kokum curry in place of dal.
Or, if the idea of plain gravy over rice doesn’t float your boat, you could sample Bhendeamchi Rosache Codi, a coconut-based okra curry, or Chouli Ros, black-eyed peas in a coconut curry. Vegetarian friends (yes, I do indeed have some of those!) have appreciated these dishes.
For dessert, skip the Bibinca (you can try this practically anywhere in Goa) and opt for the Bolo Sans Rival. Simply put, it’s a cashew nut dacquoise. Think ground cashews and meringue layered with rich, sugary, butter cream frosting and served as a slice of cake. Think sin. Think clogged arteries. Better still, don’t think at all – just eat and give praise to the Lord.
If you love great food, want a quintessentially “Goan” ambience that is not gussied up to cater to tourists, and don’t mind going out of your way to find both – head out to Fernando’s the next time you’re in Goa. You won’t regret it.
PS: It’s popular with the locals, so do make sure you have a reservation, especially on the weekends and around Christmas and Easter.
+832 2777054 / 2777098